Dwight D. Eisenhower's public image was that of a wide-grinning Daddy Warbucks who preferred the golf course over the cabinet room. He was perceived as a military bureaucrat who never held a combat command. A Republican sandwiched between two Democratic administrations, he lacked the political vigor of his predecessor Harry S. Truman and the star quality of his successor JFK.
Yet behind the placid image he was a sly fox who ran the most efficient espionage establishment in the world. His goal was to keep the Free World free. To do so, he fostered the growth of the CIA, overthrew governments, flew spy flights, and hatched assassination plots. At the top of the intelligence pyramid, Ike shouldered some of the greatest coups in espionage history, as well as some of its most ignominious failures.
Among Ike's successes: The "Man Who Never Was" strategem, the ULTRA-guided ambush of the German counterattack at Mortain, which opened the Allies' way to the Rhine, the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman's government of Guatemala, Operation AJAX, which toppled Iran's Mossadegh, and the U-2 flights over Russia. But Ike can be credited likewise for miscalculations: the failure to predict the German attack during the Battle of the Bulge, the Francis Gary Powers fiasco, and the tragic and irresponsible encouragement of freedom fighters in Hungary, Indonesia, and Cuba.
In writing this revealing probe into the 1950s spy world, Stephen E. Ambrose, the author of the most acclaimed full-scale biography of Eisenhower, interviewed the president and many of his agents and had access to much previously unpublished archival material. "The story he tells," said the New York Review of Books in 1981 when the book was first published, "is one of some very low deeds done in the name of high moral principles."
Stephen E. Ambrose was Director Emeritus of the Eisenhower Center, Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans, and president of the National D- Day Museum. He was the author of many books, most recently The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisana Purchase to Today. His compilation of 1,400 oral histories from American veterans and authorship of over 20 books established him as one of the foremost historians of the Second World War in Europe. He died October 13, 2002, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
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